It’s always fun to discover new ways of using an established ingredient, like toasting almonds before using them (they’ll have a much deeper, nuttier flavor) or running sucanat through a coffee grinder to get a more natural form of powdered sugar (which you can use in chiffon cakes and meringues and icings exactly the same way you’d use powdered sugar). The more ways you figure out how to use the same ingredient, the less you’ll have to spend on redundant pantry items! To get back to the first example, one package of raw sliced almonds can be eaten as is, can be toasted and then eaten, or can be ground into flour. No need to buy three separate items when you can buy one! Only having to buy one ingredient means you can buy a better-quality version of that ingredient and still save money.
My latest simple ingredient twist is freshly toasted unsweetened coconut flakes. All you have to do is place enough flakes in the bottom of a nonstick pan to make a thin layer, then toast the flakes over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, occasionally stirring, until the flakes are turning golden brown and are becoming lusciously fragrant. Immediately tip them out onto a cool plate so that they’ll stop cooking. (If you leave them in the hot pan, they could burn.) You can then use your toasted coconut as a garnish for savory or sweet items or as a topping for yogurt or granola or whatever else would benefit from a rich, nutty-buttery flavor. You can also stir the toasted coconut into everything from cakes to cookies to custards. Or roll them into truffles for a truly unique tropical treat!
Orange Coconut Cake
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup brown rice flour*
1/2 cup sorghum OR millet flour*
1/3 cup corn flour*
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 stick softened unsalted butter, preferably from grass-fed cows (bonus point for butter from grass-fed cows: since their milk contains much less saturated fat than conventional milk does, butter from grass-fed cows will soften much more quickly at room temperature than conventional butter will)
1/2 cup + 2 T. powdered sucanat (just run it through a coffee grinder until you have a fine powder), divided
2 eggs, separated, preferably from pastured hens
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tsp. vanilla
Dash of cream of tartar
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8×8 glass baking pan and set aside.
Place coconut in a large nonstick skillet and toast over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until flakes are golden brown and fragrant. Slide flakes onto cool plate and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In another large bowl, cream the butter with 1/2 cup of the powdered sucanat. Beat in egg yolks one at a time, then beat in orange juice and vanilla. Beat in flour mixture and reserved toasted coconut. (Note: if you’re using wheat flour, stir in the flour to avoid overmixing it and making it tough. Gluten-free bakers don’t have to worry about that.)
Either put in a fresh set of beaters or wash the ones you just used. In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar at high speed until soft peaks form. Scatter the remaining 2 T. powdered sucanat onto the stiffened whites and beat for another minute.
Fold egg whites into batter and then pour/scoop the batter into the greased baking pan. Bake for 35 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. If you like, you can make a simple icing by powdering more sucanat, then stirring in small amounts of freshly squeezed orange juice until you have a spreadable icing.
* This is a gluten-free recipe. If you’d rather make a wheat-based version, substitute 1 1/3 cups whole-wheat (or spelt or kamut) flour for the flours stipulated here.
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